Felix pounces for Portuguese gold
|Dulce Felix of Portugal celebrates as she crosses
the finish line to win the European 10,000m gold
on the final day of the European Athletics
Championships in Helsinki.
Felix who has a 31:30.90 PB, was a medallist in the past two European cross-country Championships and her strength showed over the final laps.
The early leader was Germany's Sabrina Mockenhaupt, who in her fourth Europeans has been a consistent performer over the years having been sixth at both 5000m in 2006 and at 10,000m in 2010. She led the opening kilometre in 3:10.22 but she got fed up with leading her 15 competitors round and moved aside and the pace slowed through 2km in 6:28.64 with now Ireland's Fionnula Britton ahead.
The reigning European Cross Country Champion who ran the steeplechase in the past two Championships, put in some 75 laps and the pace picked up through 3km in 9:37.14 and the pack began to split up.
Olha Skrypak, a 21-year-old Ukranian, who wasn't expected to be a factor took up the pace through 4km in 12:49.90. Britton was back ahead at halfway which was passed in 15:59.85 and a time of sub-32 looked highly likely as a group of seven began to ease away.
Britton was still ahead of a group at seven at 6000m in 19:14.09 with a group of three led by Portugal's Ana Dias, who is hoping to make her fifth Olympic team and in her fourth European championships, desperately trying to get back to the main group.
At 7km (22:24.62), Felix made her attack and it caught all her rivals out as she ran the fastet lap of the race at 73 seconds and at 7200m, she was three seconds clear.
Jo Pavey, who had finished in the top five at both the 2002 and 2006 Europeans but narrowly lost out on a medal tried to close the gap as did Skrypak and Britton.
A 74.8 circuit opned the gap to five seconds at 7600m which became six at 8km as she passed in 25:32.05.
At this stage Italian Nadia Ejjafini who was fifth in the European Cup in Bilbao, an agonizing 0.14 outside the Olympic A standard, decided to call it a day.
Skrypak (25:38.9), Pavey (25:39.6), Mockenhaupt (25:40.5) and Britton (25:40.7) were still battling for the minor medals and they had a fair gap on Charlotte Purdue, who won the 2009 European junior silver medal at 5000 in 2008 and the Junior cross-country title in 2009, who was an isolated sixth on 25:44.6.
The Portuguese opened out a few more metres over the next three laps which she averaged around 75 seconds and then a 73.6 to the bell meant she had eight seconds in hand for the last lap. At this stage Skrypak was clear closely followed by Pavey as Britton and Mockenhaupt dropped away.
The gap stayed fairly much the same until the last 100m when Pavey sprinted past the young Ukranian 17 years her junior. The Briton's 67.9 final circuit closed the gap to just over four seconds on the line as the Portuguese slowed down the straight but still with a good healthy lead.
Felix, who won in 31:44.75, said, "When I took the lead I thought the girls would follow, but nobody did. Still on the final sprint I had to look over my shoulder for the others. I'll do the marathon in the Olympics."
Pavey, had at one stage hoped to join her. And she had been disappointed to miss out on making Britain's Olympic marathon team but she has since gained Olympic standards at both 5000m and 10,000m, and she was delighted to win her first European track medal at the age of 38.
She said, "I am really pleased to get a medal. 25 laps is a long way and I had to keep strong and focussed. Not being selected for the marathon has been a real blessing in disguise as I have returned to the track after two year. It is lovely to be running like this."
She was fourth in the World Championships 10,000m. Her only previous medal was a third in the 2002 Commonwealth Games ten years ago.
The Ukrainian set a big PB and national under 23 record of 31:53.32 in third while Britton, Mockenhaupt, Purdue and Dias completed the top seven.